Canadian Career Development – The Social Media Surfing Dilemma
By Sharon Graham.
Canadians are passionate about surfing the web. More than 27 million are online on a daily basis. This accounts for 80% of our population. 6SMarketing’s Canadian Internet Usage Statistics on Mobile, Search and Social Media suggests that we spend more online time than many across the globe. On average, each of us spends more than 17 hours surfing the internet every week. Those that are in career transition are likely to spend much more time online.
More than ever, Canadians are building and documenting their career through various forms of social media including networking sites and blogs. This almost constant online use comes at a cost. While the Internet can be a good distraction for some, it can also rob us from real world experiences.
Here is the dilemma – a great part of career development requires a strong understanding and exploitation of the internet. Career practitioners remind clients who staunchly oppose or resist getting online that they may lose opportunities for ongoing career development. However, those individuals who engage too frequently risk “getting in too deep.”
As we get entrenched, we must become more aware of the potential for overuse of the internet. Although internet addiction is not yet officially recognized in Canada as a mental health disorder, Career Practitioners are noticing that a greater number of clients are presenting with mental health issues. For this reason, The Canadian Education and Research Institute (CERIC) has started a serious national discussion about bridging the gap between career counselling and mental health.
When it comes to career management, social networking can be a “double-edged sword”. In the last few years, we seem to be gaining a better appreciation of how sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can help drive career development. Although these sites are becoming more populated, many early-adopters are starting to show signs of social media fatigue. Some are even unsubscribing from the sites completely.
Staying off the Internet may not be the preferred option. Canada is vast and people across our nation need a way to connect with employers. Social media is a valuable tool to transmit information and deliver a message to a broad audience. A strong network of connections can help us attain “insider information” that others would not be able to access. Moreover, 98% of North American recruiters use social media for their hiring according to a recent North American Staffing and Recruiting Trends Report. To get ahead, we can’t ignore the Internet, but balancing our time can be a tricky.
LinkedIn is, by far, the preferred site. One of the main advantages of the social networking site is the ability to find hidden opportunities through connections, but it is more than that. It is a tool for ongoing career management. Gaining direct access to decision-makers and other like-minded professionals in the field is valuable. As such, it is an essential tool for career development. To benefit from it, individuals must receive a return on a significant investment of time and energy. There are some things we can do to ensure that LinkedIn does not take up a great portion of a subscriber’s life:
- Create a strong profile summary that will endure during life and career transition.
- Put some time in at the outset to learn, select, and use appropriate and meaningful features.
- Set aside a fixed amount of time to spend on the site and stick to the schedule.
- Actively select only a few appropriate groups to garner exposure and learn from others.
- Rather than conversing haphazardly, only communicate with people with a clear purpose in mind.
If we are to invest our time online we need to create and cultivate a meaningful network of professional contacts. Weak contacts can be time-consuming, requiring a great amount of unnecessary activity online with little return on maintaining the connection. For online social networking to be effective, it needs to be a two-way exchange. If we are sending messages out, we must receive responses in return. Otherwise, our communication is pointless.
At some point, online connections need to turn into real “flesh-and-blood” relationships. Admittedly, there is a comfort level gained by spending time behind a computer. But, over the years, many studies have found that when we surround ourselves with positive, supportive people, we build our self-esteem and gain more career opportunities. For this reason is is best to limit the use of the Internet in favour of getting out and in front of people.
Internet addiction, in general is a controversial diagnosis, but a growing number of mental health professionals are trying to get this kind of behaviour formally recognized. The prevalence rate of internet addiction for studies published in North America and Europe ranges up to 8% of the population. Share the following tip sheet with anyone who you feel might need to read it.
20 Signs of Social Media Addiction (SMA)
Monitor yourself for the warning signs of Social Media Addiction (SMA). Regularly assess yourself against the following bullet points. If you feel that you are at risk for addiction, it is in your best interest to speak with a professional immediately.
- You take your technology to bed with you.
- You wake up late at night or too early in the morning to “get updated.”
- When you’re home alone you spend most of your time on social media sites.
- When you can’t get on the internet, you become angry, agitated, or restless.
- You check your mobile phone every few minutes for any notification.
- You take a quick peek at your technology under the table (or hidden) at social gatherings.
- You have conversations with people online who are within your line of sight.
- You sneak time online so family members won’t complain.
- You feel like you cannot live a day without social media.
- You believe that you’re missing out on something when you are not online.
- You feel compelled to use your technology while driving.
- Someone you have asked to connect has not responded and you feel hurt.
- Whenever you hear about a new social media tool or site, you must get access.
- You are using the internet to bypass meeting people in person.
- When a social media site is down you get frustrated or impatient.
- You secretly spend time at work on social media sites.
- You check the number of friends, followers, or connections you have more than once a day.
- You stalk people, visiting their profile daily just to see what they are up to.
- You are comfortable adding strangers just to have more connections.
- Your family has asked you to stop and you can’t.
20 Signs of Social Media Addiction: www.SharonGraham.ca
Note: Across Canada, people living with mental health issues face the highest unemployment rate of any disability group. Joblessness creates many burdens of individuals and their families leading to shame, health issues, and poverty.
A joint report supporting by The Canadian Education and Research Institute (CERIC) and Nova Scotia Career Development Association (NSCDA) in collaboration with Neasa Martin & Associates recommends developing a strategy targeting career counsellors, educators, and policy planners to share best practices, improve career counselling access and service delivery.
Career Professionals of Canada is currently revising its Certified Career Strategist (CCS) and Certified Employment Strategist (CES) programs to put a stronger emphasis on mental health issues in career development, career transition, and career management.
If you, a colleague or client has encountered a concern, connect with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Employment Supports Network.
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